The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has created a new website to make it easier for pilots and the public to report laser incidents and obtain information on the subject. Lasers pointed at aircraft are a growing concern.
The website, which can be found at http://www.faa.gov/aircraft/safety/report/laserinfo/,collects a wide array of laser information into one location. It includes links for reporting laser incidents, laser statistics, FAA press releases, and FAA research on the dangers lasers can pose to pilots, as well as downloadable videos.
Laser event reports have increased steadily since the FAA created a formal reporting system in 2005 to collect information from pilots. Reports rose from nearly 300 in 2005 to 1,527 in 2009 and 2,836 in 2010.
This year, pilots reported 2,795 laser events through Oct. 20. Pilots have reported the most laser events in 2011 in Phoenix (96), Philadelphia (95) and Chicago (83).
The FAA began addressing the problem in 2005 by encouraging pilots to report laser events to the nearest air traffic control facility and requiring facilities to immediately relay that information to local law enforcement agencies. In June 2011, the FAA announced it would start imposing civil penalties of up to $11,000 against people who interfere with a flight crew by pointing a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft. The agency is currently working on 18 civil penalty cases.
Over the past few years, people have been charged under local, state and federal criminal statues for pointing lasers at aircraft, and legislation is pending that would make it a specific federal crime. The FAA is prepared to work with all law enforcement agencies to assist with criminal prosecutions.
The increase in annual laser reports is likely due to a number of factors, including the availability of inexpensive laser devices on the Internet; increased power levels that enable lasers to reach aircraft at higher altitudes; more pilot reporting of laser strikes; and the introduction of green and blue lasers, which are more easily seen than red lasers.